NAWG hopes you had a wonderful holiday season! It was an action packed couple of weeks for the wheat industry in Washington, D.C. Here’s a look at what happened. Updates are also available at www.twitter.com/wheatworld.
One Year Farm Bill Extension Included in Fiscal Deal
This week the government avoided the “fiscal cliff” with late night action Monday by the Senate, Tuesday night by the House and the Thursday morning signature of President Barack Obama.
The bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 89-8 and the House by a vote of 257-167, maintains lower tax rates for many Americans while increasing rates on those in the higher income brackets. The package also delays widespread automatic federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, that were set to take affect Jan. 3, 2013, and are now pushed off until March. The measure increased the estate tax rate to from 35 percent to 40 percent but maintained exemption levels of $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples. The bill also includes a tax credit for cellulosic biofuel producers and tax credits for biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels.
The measure extended the 2008 Farm Bill including commodity support programs, such as the Direct and Counter Cyclical program, the Average Crop Revenue Election commonly referred to as the ACRE program as well as the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Vice President Joe Biden, negotiators of the package, included the farm bill extension as an effort to avoid the so-called “dairy cliff” that caught the attention of Obama late last week.
NAWG released a statement Wednesday morning following the Congressional action that shared appreciation from growers for policy certainty for the fast approaching spring planting season and urged the 113th Congress, sworn in today, to outline a comprehensive five-year farm bill quickly.
The statement is available at http://www.wheatworld.org/news-events/2013/01/nawg-statement-on-extending-the-2008-farm-bill/. A summary of the bill is available here: http://www.gop.gov/bill/113/1/hr8senateamendments. Full language is available here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr8enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr8enr.pdf.
Leadership Changes Continue in New Congress
The House of Representatives set their leadership slate for the 113th Congress; re-electing Speaker John Boehner(R-Ohio) to a second term as speaker with 220 “yes” votes. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also kept their leadership posts. After the vote, Boehner addressed the new Congress stating “public service was never meant to be an easy living. Extraordinary challenges demand extraordinary leadership,” he said. Boehner also pledged to work hard as Speaker to bring down our national debt, create jobs and grow our economy.
On the other side of the Capitol today, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) announced Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss) will become the new Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee in the 113th Congress. Roberts’ statement noted that Cochran, who has seniority in the Senate over Roberts, has his full support and he would move the nomination when the committee comes together for a vote. As the Senate continues to organize, more information about members and schedules of the Senate Agriculture Committee can be found at: http://www.agriculture.senate.gov/.
EPA Administrator to Step Down
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson announced she will step down from her post this month. While EPA has been a perennial target of criticism from some sectors, Jackson has won praise from renewable fuel supporters for her defense of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). Several names are floating about a possible replacement but focus seems to be largely on current Deputy Administrator Robert Perciacepe, who will serve as acting administrator. Perciacepe previously served as head of several divisions of that agency, such as Air and Water Pollution Abatement, as well as Secretary of the Environment for the State of Maryland.
Baik to Lead USDA Wheat Quality Lab
USDA announced today that Dr. Byung-Kee Baik has accepted the position of lead scientist in the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Soft Wheat Quality Lab and will officially begin in February. Baik, currently an associate professor for the Washington State University (WSU) Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, directed the WSU Wheat Quality Program that evaluates the end-use quality of wheat breeding lines. He also managed an active, diverse and productive research program. The ARS Soft Wheat Quality Lab is located in Wooster, Ohio, and evaluates quality of Soft Wheat breeding lines and cultivars from the Eastern United States to ensure maintenance and improvement of milling and baking quality.
NAWG Meeting Season Fast Approaching
The 2013 Wheat Industry Winter Conference is scheduled for Jan. 26 – 29 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. All NAWG and USW committees, joint committees and both Boards of Directors are scheduled to meet during the Conference. In addition to the Winter Conference, the 2013 Commodity Classic is scheduled for Feb. 26 – March 2, 2013, in Kissimmee, Fla. The Commodity Classic is the annual convention and trade show of the wheat, corn, soybeans and sorghum industries. NAWG has made Classic its annual meeting since 2007. More information about both meetings, including registration can be found at: http://www.wheatworld.org/meetings-events/.